LOS ANGELES (CBS) — A California preacher who claims he has deciphered the date of what he calls "Judgment Day" as depicted in the Bible may be waiting for the end of the world on Saturday, but critics are wondering why he hasn't parted with his ministry's estimated $56 million fortune.
Harold Camping, an 89-year-old former civil engineer and founder of the independent Christian broadcast ministry Family Radio Worldwide says that he knows the day and the hour of the return of Jesus Christ: May 21, 2011 at exactly 6 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.
But as KNX 1070's Jon Baird reports, many Christians in the South Bay think actually choosing any day is an insult to the Word of God.
It's not the first doomsday prediction for Camping: nearly 20 years ago, Camping wrote a book predicting the Rapture — the event prophesied in the Bible when all believing Christians will be "caught up" to meet Jesus in the air — would take place in September 1994.
The vast majority of Christian leaders have denounced Camping's prediction as blatantly contradicting the warning of Christ that "No man knows the day or the hour" of his return in Matthew 24:36, including Jerry Jenkins, author of the "Left Behind" series that depicts the events surrounding the Rapture.
"I think it's going to be a complete surprise," Jenkins told KNX 1070's Ron Kilgore. "Scripture talks about it happening in the way a thief comes in the night."
His followers argue that the UC Berkeley graduate has used ministry finances not for personal gain, but to inform the public of God's imminent judgment.
"What he did was he doled the money out to warn people," said Jim Groark, a real estate broker from San Diego. "It's been a very effective campaign."
Camping's Family Radio Worldwide holds approximately $34 million in investments, $56 million in assets and $29 million in mortgages, according to IRS records as reported by the New York Times.
A spokesman for the ministry would not confirm actual figures for the budget, but did say it amounted to "tens of millions" of dollars.
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